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Steel majors want state to get proactive on land

Ranchi, Feb. 22: Tata Steel and ArcelorMittal, looking to set up projects in Jharkhand since the last eight years, have asked the state to abandon its hands-off policy on land for industry.

At a review meeting on mega-sector investments, chaired yesterday by industry secretary A.P. Singh, the two steel majors made a strong pitch for the administration’s intervention so that they were able to get adequate land to set up projects — Tatas in Seraikela-Kharsawan and Mittals in Bokaro districts.

The former Arjun Munda government has been advocating that private companies should arrange on its own at least 70 per cent of their land.

The state would step in after that.

“Given the poor state of land records in the state and the big requirement of land, it will not be possible for the company to directly buy pieces of land from villagers. So the government should acquire it and give it to us,” said a Tata Steel official on condition of anonymity.

While Mittal were represented by their CEO (mining) M.P. Singh, the Tatas saw Jharkhand project (Greenfield) chief Bishwajit Roy Choudhury and chief resident executive Satish Singh in attendance.

Since the land requirement of both Tatas and Mittals was on the higher side, the industry department was now thinking of pursuing the “consent award”. This meant the companies would first need to get undertakings from raiyats (villagers) saying they were ready to part with land for an industrial project.

The state revenue department would then move in and conduct formal land acquisition proceedings on behalf of the companies.

“Requirement of land of both Tata Steel and ArcelorMittal is on the higher side. Each has asked for at least 2,000 acres to launch the first phase of their projects. We are thinking of options, especially the consent award route. The state would take a final decision soon,” Singh said.

Arcelor Mittal was in agreement with the approach. “We agreed that we would take prior consent of land owners and seek the support of the state administration for facilitating land acquisition through the consent award' route,” a company spokesperson said.

Both Tata Steel and ArcelorMittal signed MoUs with the state government way back in 2005. While Tata Steel is to set up a 12 MTPA steel mill with an investment of over Rs 40,000 crore, Mittals signed on for a 10 MTPA capacity plant with investment of over Rs 42,000 crore.

While Tata Steel expansion project in Jamshedpur is progressing on course _ 6.8 MTPA capacity to be upgraded to 9.7 MTPA _ the company is yet to make any progress on its proposed Greenfield project in the Tontoposhi area of neighbouring Seraikela-Kharsawan district.

ArcelorMittal hasn’t had much luck with land either. The steel behemoth has had to change sites twice _ from the Torpa-Kolebira area in Khunti and Simdega districts it decided on a patch of land at Petarwar-Kasmar blocks of Bokaro.

Now, it is looking at land in Chas near Bokaro.

At yesterday’s review meet, other investors also spoke out. Electrosteel Steel Limited raised the issue of a pending “consent to operate” from the Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board for its steel mill in the Chandankiyari area of Bokaro.

The company, which has already invested over Rs 8,000 crore, was now waiting to start production.

Electrosteel, the first company to be allotted iron ore reserves spread over 192.5 hectare in the Kodolibandh reserve forest area in Saranda in West Singhbhum district, has already been granted stage-1 clearance by the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF).

It was allotted a mining lease in 2006.

Recently, a forest advisory committee (FAC) of the MoEF cleared two proposals allowing diversion of 1511.13 hectare forest land under Saranda forest division in favour of JSW Steel Limited and JSPL.

The MoEF will now take a final call on whether to allow diversion of forest areas for mining in Saranda.

Union tribal affairs minister V.K.C. Deo and Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh are against the idea of allowing new mining companies in Saranda, a former Maoists hub where a Rs 249-crore development plan for 56 tribal-dominated villages is being pursued aggressively by both the Centre and state.

Essar Steel, represented by vice-president (mines) Abhijeet Bhattacharya and resident director S.B. Singh, raised the issue of “low quality and quantity” of iron ore in the reserves allotted to it West Singhbhum.

Abhijeet Infrastructure Pvt Ltd, ticked off by the state chief secretary during the last review meeting in November 2012 for not moving fast enough on its Brinda-Sisai coal project, sought iron ore linkages to start production at its upcoming plant in Seraikela Kharsawan district.

The company has been allotted an iron-ore block in West Singhbhum, but statutory clearances were still awaited.